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Romeo&Juliet / Novikova-Shklyarov - Sat 30 September

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https://www.mariinsky.ru/en/playbill/playbill/2017/9/30/2_1900

 

Had ticket for Etudes/Carmen matinee at Balshoy and wanted to see Genya who I have

not seen live in a major role so far (always try to book my favourite dancers) and Mark

Chino who was one of the winners of the Moscow compet this year. Then couple of weeks

ago my friend in Piter sent a heads-up saying Alesya Novikova is excellent Juliet but dances

this role very rarely, so off to Piter by Sapsan to arrive just one hour before curtain up. I was

told Sapsan is always on time and lived up to its reputation, giving me time to drop off my

bags at the hotel. Less congested weekend traffic also helped - those members who know

Piter would know how it is on weekdays at evening rush hour.

 

This will be repetitive but have to touch the matter briefly :  I fell for Russian classical ballet

after seeing Vishnova and Shklyarov as Romeo&Juliet on Mezzo satcast in 2013 and then live

at the ROH in 2014. They instantly became my default Romeo and Juliet, and I was so infatuated

with Diana as Juliet that I could not accept Diana as Giselle or Nikiya, and could not accept anyone

else as Juliet since then (nut case ?). Am just coming out of this trance (one of my Russian ballet

friends diagnosed me as an incurable romantic) and recently realised what an excellent Giselle

Diana is/was. So had to see Alesya, and must say the hassle was well worth it.

 

Alesya imho is also a "natural" Juliet - she also "owns" this role. I am not going to, and anyway am

ill qualified to evaluate execution, but isn't characterisation more, most important in this work

which for me is THE pinnacle of narrative ballet ?  I am adamant that in any stage performance

the "book", the story is of utmost importance - start with a bad or weak one and it is doomed,

nothing can save it, hype will only keep it going for a few weeks or months.

 

Then the music :  has Prokofiev written anything more iconic ? For me this music is inseparable

from this ballet, I cannot imagine Romeo&Juliet being set to any other music. A masterwork (for

me the masterwork) of modern composition, it's incredible from start to finish. The story and the

music tug at your heartstrings throughout the work - if you don't agree with this then you and I

must have been born under very different stars !

 

Shklyarov remains my default Romeo - imho he owns this role and nobody else I have seen so

far can lay claim to it yet. Saw Diana with Ovcharenko last season, he was good but Volodya owns

this role. If my info is correct he is in his late 30s but my, what characterisation - makes you believe,

accept him as Romeo.

 

Now that Diana has hung up her pointes Alesya becomes my default Juliet, at Mariinka at least. As

much as I love the Balshoy I cannot name anyone there who could be "Juliet". Will never see the

Grigarovich version - the master has made a hash of a beautiful ballet, I hate it. It's the only Griga

staging I give the thumbs-down so far. I am due to see the Ratmansky staging (ugh!) in November

and who knows I might have a Juliet at Balshoy too.

 

ADDENDUM :

At this point I would like to bring something up for discussion :  I attach utmost importance to the "book" in a stage work including ballet, which for me

has to have a universal, timeless and geo-unrestricted story and must be able to convey the story and affect the viewer via dance only. And I have utmost

admiration for the efforts of Lavrovsky and Prokofiev who produced a work which will live for ever. But then, there is a quite critical flaw in the book for

this work :  why does Romeo not know that Juliet has been given a "deep sleep" potion and in reality is not dead ??  The Lavrovsky staging omits this very

critical link in the drama, leaving the uninitiated viewer stranded. As much as I love and admire this work I cannot say "well everybody knows Shakespeare

and his R&J" - this is not the point, the viewer must be able to detect why from what is presented on stage. Now I hate the Grigarovich version but this critical

link in the drama is there - the original Shakespeare story has too many "mothers-in-law" : the messenger friar being quarantined due to outbreak of plague

etc. In the Grigarovich version there is a short sequence which flashes by showing the messenger being captured and killed (pls correct me if I'm wrong) thus

enabling the viewer to make sense of the subsequent action. So, it can be done, and I wonder why or how Lavrovsky and/or his librettist/s, made this critical

omission. Any suggestions or comments most welcome.

Edited by mnacenani
added post further down to this post

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Glad to read that you got to see Novikova--she has many admirers. Unfortunately I have only seen her on video. 

 

I agree that in a narrative ballet, the dancer's interpretation is essential, but I must admit my tastes are for ballets with richly musical choreography, and I find the greatest profundity in choreography 'itself' -- its formal beauties and complexities. I don't think those are trivial or lack passion--a dance phrase in conjunction with music can conjure a whole world of ideas/feelings, if the choreographer has a deep understanding of the language of ballet. That kind of choreographer doesn't need a literal narrative. 

 

So for me, a great Balanchine Ballet (Four Temperaments, Concerto Barocco, Serenade, Symphony in C) has the impact you--and many others--find in Romeo and Juliet. The  20th- and 21st-century dramatic/narrative ballets I have loved best are probably one act works where the drama has seemed to me more fully integrated with a complex and expressive classical dancing--Ashton's Month in the Country or Tudor's Lilac Garden. (I have never seen a performance of Macmillan's Manon in which the lead ballerina didn't look exactly like every other lead ballerina I had seen in Manon: it's as if the choreography itself--particularly the acrobatic pas de deux--homogenizes the dancing; for me, that's the opposite of expressive no matter how much the ballerina has to "emote.") 

 

I also love the nineteenth-century "classic" repertory and any number of later ballets that reflect on, continue, and revise nineteenth-century traditions (like Ashton's Fille Mal Gardee or, more recently Ratmansky's Whipped Cream.) 

 

But honestly I would still have loved to see Novikova's Juliet!  In fact, the one Romeo and Juliet I have seen that I would most like to see again is Lavrosky's! I have only been able to see it once in the theater--with Stepanenko and Filin plus Tsiskaridze as Mercutio, back in the day when the Bolshoi danced the Lavrosky version. I remember thinking Lavrosky captured a much more textured, socially complex version of Shakespeare's play than one finds in other choreographic settings of the score, and those qualities in the staging seemed to fill out the music more effectively than those other settings.

 

I'd be curious about Ratmansky's Romeo and Juliet though and look forward to reading your thoughts on it. Certainly great performances can make even a mediocre version of Romeo and Juliet come alive.

Edited by Drew

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Novikova is, in my opinion, the best ballerina at the Mariinsky, and that includes Lopatkina even before she retired. Her arms are the most flowing and delightful arms of all Mariinsky ballerinas. She is also quite versatile...able to dance Odette/Odile (though rarely getting the chance....I think she danced it ONCE on the Mariinsky stage and maybe once or twice on tours), Kitri, Giselle, Masha in Nutcracker, Raymonda, Aurora, etc.

 

It is sad that Novikova is not a principal. She is so feminine and delicate but then spins like a Tasmanian devil when Giselle rises from the grave. So strength hidden under the delicate, flowing Vaganova training....

 

Beautiful, beautiful dancer. She should be the new prima now that Lopatkina has retired. In fact, she should have been the prima way above Lopatkina and Vishneva. IMO She is truly a great red wine that makes all others taste sour.

 

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3 hours ago, Drew said:

I remember thinking Lavrosky captured a much more textured, socially complex version of Shakespeare's play than one finds in other settings of the score, and those qualities in the staging seemed to fill out the music more effectively than those other versions.

 

At this point I would like to bring something up for discussion :  I attach utmost importance to the "book" in a stage work including ballet, which for me

has to have a universal, timeless and geo-unrestricted story and must be able to convey the story and affect the viewer via dance only. And I have utmost

admiration for the efforts of Lavrovsky and Prokofiev who produced a work which will live for ever. But then, there is a quite critical flaw in the book for

this work :  why does Romeo not know that Juliet has been given a "deep sleep" potion and in reality is not dead ??  The Lavrovsky staging omits this very

critical link in the drama, leaving the uninitiated viewer stranded. As much as I love and admire this work I cannot say "well everybody knows Shakespeare

and his R&J" - this is not the point, the viewer must be able to detect why from what is presented on stage. Now I hate the Grigarovich version but this critical

link in the drama is there - the original Shakespeare story has too many "mothers-in-law" : the messenger friar being quarantined due to outbreak of plague

etc. In the Grigarovich version there is a short sequence which flashes by showing the messenger being captured and killed (pls correct me if I'm wrong) thus

enabling the viewer to make sense of the subsequent action. So, it can be done, and I wonder why or how Lavrovsky and/or his librettist/s, made this critical

omission. Any suggestions or comments most welcome.

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Obratzova is a stunning Juliet, as well as Giselle, and aurora. When I saw her in London at the Russian Gala this past March, she still seemed a bit out of shape from having her twins. Wondering if she is dancing at full power now, or still limiting her performances in order to spend time with her family. 

 

Ive never danced Lavrovsky’s version and of R&J, only the MacMillan. The intricate Pas de Deux in the MacMillan are so icredible to perform but I was never crazy about the rest of the ballet. Parts, yes. I’ve seen Lavrovsky’s several times and have always gotten much more out of it overall with the characterizations reading better and less ‘filler’. Just my openion.

 

I have a hard time ever believing any one dancer owns a role, especially when not having seen a wide range of interpretations. There are certain dancers hat appeal to me more than others, and certain types I prefer in specific roles, but for me, part of what makes ballet such an amazing art is what individual dancers can bring to the role without changing the choreogrpher’s intent. I’ve had many experiences of going into a performance not really caring for a dancer and come out shocked by what I’ve seen. I try and appreciate everyone that attempts a leading role. You become so vulnerable when you give everything to an audience. Months and months of preparation for a maddening 2 hours on stage and you are beyond drained by the end. I came offstage very often in tears, not from injury or a bad performance, but because I was so emotionally spent. I guess having been on the stage gives you a slightly different perspective when in the audience than others who never performed. Yes, I have favorites who I like to see, but 99% of the time I will see a ballet regardless of who is dancing because I know there will be aspects that I will love, even if the principals aren’t my style. Just some thoughts, not trying to admonish anyone else’s motivation for seeing ballet. Goodness knows we need more people to grow an interest in the art form!

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6 hours ago, Fraildove said:

Just some thoughts, not trying to admonish anyone else’s motivation for seeing ballet. Goodness knows we need more people to grow an interest in the art form!

 

Dear Fraildove many thanks for taking the time to express your views - I appreciate it. I am aware of my shortcomings, at least of some of them,

and having "idées fixes" about certain things is one ! In an earlier post about a different subject which you probably did not see I diagnosed myself

as having "obsessive compulsive personality disorder" :D:D  Yes - I should take it as it comes and not try to cherry-pick casts I keep telling myself,

to little avail so far. But when one of my ballet friends suggests I should see something or someone I always I try to accomodate, and I am thankful

to my friend Katya for suggesting I go and see Novikova. And if I can I try to see two different casts of the same work whenever I can at the Balshoy,

to compare characterisation and execution : one time I saw both the matinee and evening perf's of Don Kixot to compare Krysanova and Zaharova

as Kitri, surprising my ballet tutor Vita who is a pro. Am going to see two nights of Korsar in two weeks to compare Stepanova and Smirnova, I hope !

 

Alas, I have not been able to see Genya Obr. at all in a major role - I think she was out for all of the previous season. Saw her last at the Dance Open

closing gala in Piter last April and she was not very good, got "polite applause" only. Was supposed to see her in Etudes on Saturday but had to give up

to see Alesya as Juliet. Will be trying to catch Genya in a Petipa classic this season.

 

I know what you mean about being drained - I saw Diana more than once in this condition at the curtain calls after dancing Juliet, looking totally

drained and in a trance. She also gives everything she has to the viewers, to mesmerising effect.

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9 hours ago, Fraildove said:

Ive never danced Lavrovsky’s version and of R&J, only the MacMillan. The intricate Pas de Deux in the MacMillan are so icredible to perform but I was never crazy about the rest of the ballet. Parts, yes. I’ve seen Lavrovsky’s several times and have always gotten much more out of it overall with the characterizations reading better and less ‘filler’. Just my openion.

 

 

MacMillan had his own personal take on the ballet, particularly the character of Juliet and his R&J isn't strictly Shakespeare's as in my view he has coarsened the story, not least with the superfluous 'harlots'.  What is lost is the poetry and the Lavrovsky version has that in abundance.  I've seen so many versions of the ballet now that I've lost count, but every production I've seen has had something to admire, even if fleetingly, and I've sometimes imagined a ballet comprising the best bits of all of them.  I think Nureyev's version comes closest to the actual text of the play, but for dramatic purposes it is important to know what to cut and I'm not sure a simple sentence should be reproduced as part of a scene (e.g. death figure appearing to have sexual congress with Juliet).

 

We all have favourites and I have got more from Vladimir Vasiliev's version than any other, though it breaks my heart that Ashton's R&J isn't performed by the Royal Ballet, or indeed by ENB that dropped it for Nureyev's.  The version I regret never having seen is the Tudor, the photos I've seen are so beautiful.  Telling what is possibly the world's best known love story through dance brings out the best in many ballerinas and will continue to do so for a very long time.

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16 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

MacMillan had his own personal take on the ballet, particularly the character of Juliet and his R&J isn't strictly Shakespeare's as in my view he has coarsened the story, not least with the superfluous 'harlots'.  What is lost is the poetry and the Lavrovsky version has that in abundance.

 

BRAVA !  :clapping: Will try to send this quote to Hanna Weibye if I can find her email address. Does anyone have it ??

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I would so love to see Tudor’s R&J. I can only imagine the lyricism in his version. The Harlots in MacMillian’s drove me nuts. And I really hated being tossed around like a rag doll in the death scene because I could never imagine Romeo handling Juliet like that, not to mention it hurt on many occasions. I’ve never been able to see Cranko’s complete version but I do like his balcony Pas, which sadly is all I have seen. 

 

Juliet was always my favorite role to dance, having gotten to perform it from a young age until I stopped performing. I think being able to dance it at different phases in my life made it all the more dear. I used to have a hard time deciding which role, between Giselle and Juliet was my favorite. Now though having been off the stage for 7 years I find it is Juliet that I have more dreams about. 

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2 hours ago, Fraildove said:

The Harlots in MacMillian’s drove me nuts. And I really hated being tossed around like a rag doll in the death scene because I could never imagine Romeo handling Juliet like that

 

I will stand my ground when I know I have got it right, and so have you. Lavrovsky-Prokofiev is THE defining work, the masterpiece,

and anything coming after is what we marketing people call a "me-too product" - cashing in on a block-busting invention ! And the

harlots are what we call "product differentiation" - to avoid getting the me-too product being branded a blatant intellectual property

theft !

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The Ashton R&J was the first one I saw as performed by LFB (now ENB) in the mid-1980s when I first started watching ballet.  Thinking back I realise I loved its clean lines and simplicity as well as the heart-felt performances of the dancers.

 

I saw the Lavrovsky at the London Coliseum in the late 1980s and was totally bored by it.  I have never wanted to see it again!

 

I still compare every other version I see to the Ashton, probably because it was my first.  The only other production I hold as dear is the one by Massimo Morricone/Christopher Gable for Northern Ballet.

 

That is not to say that there are not other productions I enjoy and admire. 

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Agree about the  Massimo Morricone/Christopher Gable production that Northern Ballet dances, I haven't seen it for some time now but remember it as being true to the spirit of Shakespeare.

 

There is a simplicity about the Ashton version, straightforward story telling.  I always felt it inspired Cranko whose own version is very much the template for MacMillan's.  I won't mention plagiarism though Cranko himself certainly alluded to it.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Mashinka said:

There is a simplicity about the Ashton version, straightforward story telling.  I always felt it inspired Cranko whose own version is very much the template for MacMillan's. 

 

Insisto e ripeto - tutti questi sono prodotti "me-too" !!  Copying from the one-of-a-kind-block-busting original and from other

me-toos is sooooo easy once the original has shown how to do it. When Mariinsky was on tour in London in 2014 Hanna Weibye

of Artsdesk posted something like "excellent principals save dated production" for the Lavrovsky R&J. Probably failed to notice

or disregarded that all of the ensemble scenes in all of MacMillan's ballets are copies of each other so much so that if the ensemble

were to wear the same kit you could not tell which choreo was from which ballet !

 

(PS :  someone of importance in the ballet world who I practically forced at gunpoint to befriend me says "Once again

I don't agree with what you are saying but you say it with such passion that one is reluctant to challenge it" when we

meet once in a blue moon for ballet talk over lunch)

Edited by mnacenani

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There are harlots in the Lavrovsky but they play such a small role that they are easy to miss. For those of us who love flowing arms and upper bodies the Lavrovsky danced by the Mariinsky is the best!!! Plus, there is an elegance to the dancing and choreography that is lovely. I don't think I would like the Lavrovsky version danced by another company, however. I think the Mariinsky with its special style makes it work for me.

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6 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

For those of us who love flowing arms and upper bodies

 

Have you seen the "Polovtsian Dances" clip I posted couple of days ago under Bolshoy Ballet ? Regrettably

the choreo of this performance from 2013 (?) is slightly different from what I saw at Balshoy last Friday, or

maybe it doesn't show fully what I saw due to picture selection, but I was like "Oh ... my, this is it !" in terms

of flowing arms and upper bodies. Only in Russia, and even newcomers like myself can't fail to notice it !!

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Here is an interesting Prince Igor from Bulgaria with Gediminas Taranda's Imperial Russian Ballet.  Most of the girls will be Russian though some of the company is Kazakhstani  and Moldovan.  As the date is 2015 I think the leading male dancers are Nariman Bekzhanov and Denis Simon, not sure about the leading girls as my aging laptop wouldn't let me watch full screen.  There is a much older version of them on DVD with Taranda himself dancing but unfortunately can't find it on line.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Mashinka said:

There is a simplicity about the Ashton version, straightforward story telling.  I always felt it inspired Cranko whose own version is very much the template for MacMillan's.  I won't mention plagiarism though Cranko himself certainly alluded to it.

 

Definitely plagiarism! Cranko should get co-choreographer credit for the MacMillan version.

 

I saw the Ashton version only once, when London Festival Ballet performed it in New York. At the time it struck me as very different from the Cranko, MacMillan and Van Dantzig versions with which I was most familiar, even geared at Bournonville technique, I'd say. I would love to see it again to check whether my memory is playing tricks on me. 

 

I don't care for the Lavrovsky version much. It strikes me as very static, and it messes around too much with the score, though not as badly as the Grigorovich version. :yucky:

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44 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

I don't care for the Lavrovsky version much. It strikes me as very static, and it messes around too much with the score, though not as badly as the Grigorovich version

 

Totally agree, and quote from my post above opening this thread : "the master has made a hash of a beautiful ballet, I hate it.

It's the only Griga staging I give the thumbs-down so far". But for me the Grigarovich version is more complete in terms of dra-

matic structure which I tried to bring up under "Addendum" tagged on to my opening post, which nobody found worthy of

discussion. Would you be willing to express a few thoughts re this matter ?

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